This semester, business students have been taking on a unique project. Erica Vonk, business professor, decided to go beyond testing her students in her Integrated Marketing Communications class. She devised “The Pitch” to help the juniors and seniors in the class apply their knowledge and begin bridging the gap between college and a career.
The Pitch is a marketing competition that has merged ideas from “The Voice”, a talent show where teams have their own mentor, and “Shark Tank”, a television series where teams present a creative pitch for their product or service to investors.
“Travis Olson (CEO of Agency Two Twelve) and I brainstormed the idea to create a realistic project useful for students, but one that did not compete against local agencies for clients,” Vonk said.
The students have partnered with Agency Two Twelve, a local marketing agency based in Sioux Center, to help them create a 12-month marketing plan for a hypothetical client by using the agency’s project management software. The students are able to design logos and create social media sites, websites, radio and television ads.
The class has been divided into four teams. Two teams have been assigned a BBQ restaurant and the other two teams have an upscale wine and dine restaurant. Each team has a mentor from the agency and two restaurant owners to create and guide them through obstacles. There will be two winners: one from a barbeque restaurant and one from a wine and dine restaurant.
“The goal of The Pitch is to take learning out of the textbook and develop a plan that will be presented to clients,” Vonk said.
Students are enjoying the real-life experience The Pitch is providing. There have been a variety of challenges including working as a team, working with a budget and adjusting to unexpected events.
Kelsey Morisch, senior marketing major on a team for the wine and dine restaurant, talked about some of the challenges she faced with this project.
“They like to throw curveballs at us,” Morisch said. “We received one about remodeling our client’s business and you have to work with those changes because it’s what us marketers will deal with when we graduate and go to the real world.”
Not only do teams have to be flexible, they have to learn how to work under pressure.
“I just got an email from the restaurant telling us that they need their logo as soon as possible so now we have to get that to them even faster than before,” said Autumn Pluim, junior marketing major on a team for the barbeque restaurant.
The curveballs help The Pitch be possibly the most realistic project these marketing students have done during their time at Northwestern.
“The best part is the real life experience of putting everything that we have learned into action. I’ve never done anything like it,” Pluim said.
This opportunity carries over so well into the real world that it was one of the main reasons Agency Two Twelve wanted to partner with the class. A lot of the interns that start at Agency Two Twelve do not have much experience to bring to the company and that can be seen as a disadvantage.
“Giving students real world experience is huge,” Kris Gesink, Creative Director, said. “It gives them an edge over other students who can’t say that they’ve done this kind of project or worked with a client before.”
Apart from the valuable skills students are attaining, The Pitch opens up communication lines between Northwestern College and possible internship or job opportunities with Agency Two Twelve.
“For us as a business it’s great because we are always looking to hire good students so if we can see somebody that stands out, we might want to hire them,” Gesink said.
Students will be prepared on May 11th to give their final creative pitch to their clients, mentors and Vonk.
“We are not releasing the winning prizes, but I think the biggest reward is using their project towards interviews and future jobs,” Vonk said.